Cadets at the Citadel in Charleston, S.C., on Nov. 18, 2015. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Joshua Drake

Citadel refuses Muslim woman's request to wear hijab

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters)  A Muslim student will not be allowed to wear a hijab with her uniform at the Citadel military college should she decide to enroll this fall, the school's president said.

Lt. Gen. John Rosa, the president, said the public military college recognized the importance of individual religious beliefs but could not grant the exception to the standardized uniform considered essential to its learning goals.

"Uniformity is the cornerstone of this four-year leader development model," Rosa said in a statement Tuesday (May 10). "This process reflects an initial relinquishing of self during which cadets learn the value of teamwork to function as a single unit."

Rosa said the student's request to wear the headscarf was given "considerable review" by the college in Charleston, and he added the school hoped the admitted student would still enroll.

The student was informed of the decision Tuesday and has not said whether she will attend, Citadel spokesman Brett Ashworth said in a phone interview.

Some students and alumni had spoken out against allowing the exception to be made, citing the military college's emphasis on uniformity in apparel and privileges.

Citadel students are required to wear uniforms furnished by the college at nearly all times except when the corps of cadets is furloughed or a cadet is on leave, according to the college's website.

Ashworth said the Citadel allowed an exception to the uniform requirement several years ago when a cadet requested for religious reasons to wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt for physical fitness training.

Requests for religious accommodations are handled on a case-by-case basis and are commonly made for prayer and dietary needs, school officials said.

"We do everything we can to support our cadets," Ashworth said. "We allow cadets prayers time. We've released cadets on a Friday night or a Saturday night or to miss an inspection for a religious service."

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod)